Today, Wednesday 9th February 2022, a letter coordinated by Friends, Families and Travellers and Roma Support Group, and signed by over 40 charities has been sent to Nadhim Zawahi MP, Secretary of State for Education, to ask that Roma and Sinti experiences during the Holocaust are included in the national curriculum. The letter comes in response to comments made by Jimmy Carr in a Netflix special that the genocide of Roma and Gypsy people during the Holocaust was a ‘positive’. You can view the letter here.
Over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were tortured, starved, subjected to forced labour and medical experimentation under the Nazi regime – it is abhorrant to make this the punchline of a joke.
The comments have received widespread condemnation, but the letter to the Secretary for Education, which has been signed by over 40 charities, including Anne Frank Trust, Race Equality Foundation, Show Racism the Red Card, Runnymede Trust and more asks for ‘measures to be implemented for meaningful change’.
Research from Friends, Families and Travellers in 2019 found that 55% of surveyed British adults did not know that over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Roma communities across Europe and in the UK continue to face high levels of prejudice and feel the consequences of hate every day. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission published in 2018 found that 44% of the British public surveyed expressed openly negative attitudes towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, more than any other protected characteristic group.
The letter calls on Government to take action and implement the teaching of the Roma genocide as a mandatory part of Holocaust teaching in schools and to support schools to mark Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month.
Discussing the letter, Sylvia Ingmire, Director at Roma Support Group shared:
“The recent act of degrading the death of 500,000 Roma people during the Holocaust to a ‘joke’ revealed the deep-seated hatred that Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities continue to face in our society today. This last ‘acceptable’ form of racism, which continues to destroy the life opportunities of our people cannot be challenged by public words of condemnation alone. There is an urgent need for the Government to take action and commit to combating Romaphobia by integrating Gypsy, Roma and Travellers’ histories in school curricula and implement long-term strategic measures, helping to ‘level-up’ the stark inequalities within our communities.”
Reflecting on the issue, Marek Balog, Director of Rom Romeha, part of Community Renewal Trust said:
“I was really shocked and disgusted when I saw Jimmy Carr’s Netflix special. The joke wasn’t in any way funny and I believe that everyone, especially those with influence and power, should act responsibly when talking about other races, religions, ethnicity and minorities. Hate speech is never acceptable or funny. I don’t know why hateful attitudes and comments towards the Roma or Gypsy communities is still an accepted form of racism. I believe it is time for a big change and the Roma & Gypsy Traveller communities will collaborate to make sure any form of racism and stereotyping is challenged. My thoughts are with the Roma and Gypsy, Traveller communities and with all people who lost their loved one’s in the horrendous Holocaust.”
Speaking about the letter, Mattey Mitchell, Health Campaigns Officer at Friends, Families and Travellers said:
“The experiences of Roma and Sinti peoples during the Holocaust remain in living memory, but are still largely unknown to the wider public. When these memories are gone also from our communities, who then will remain to ensure history does not repeat itself? Dikh he na bister means “Look and don’t forget”. It’s time that children were permitted to look. That we provide our children with the tools of empathy, understanding and critical thought – which are the foundations of a more tolerant tomorrow.”
Tim Robertson, Chief Executive of The Anne Frank Trust commented:
“In our classroom experience and impact evaluation here at the Anne Frank Trust UK, we find young people’s stigmatisation of Gypsy Roma Traveller people to be more profound and intransigent than any other form of prejudice. Jimmy Carr’s cruel joking, and the laughter that followed it, show once again that addressing this issue is an urgent national educational priority.”
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works to end racism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and to protect the right to pursue a nomadic way of life.
Tel: 07425 419853 Email: [email protected]
Letter to Nadhim Zawahi. Include Roma and Sinti experiences during the Holocaust in the national curriculum. View here.
Research findings: 55% of British people surveyed unaware that over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were killed in the Holocaust, 2019. View here.
Britain’s conflicting attitudes towards equality, The Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2018. View here.